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Most foods have 'protective' qualities, which safeguard us against a wide range of diseases, including stroke, certain cancers, hypertension, scurvy, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. Diet alone cannot guarantee good health, and is not a magical cure-all, but its significance is enormous. In a nutshell (yes, nuts are excellent), protective foods supply a natural defense against early ill-health and mortality.
Nutrition is full of complexities. To borrow a phrase, 'no food is an island' - which simply means that FOOD COMPONENTS never work in isolation. They interact, and the effects of an individual food or nutrient may change according to its combination with others. If you drink tea with a meal, it will interfere with iron absorption from the meat or vegetables, while orange juice will assist, as will any food or drink rich in Vitamin C. The phytates in cereals can effect mineral absorption - thus th e calcium in your breakfast milk may be devalued. Vitamin E protects our stores of Vitamin A, and a high ratio of potassium to salt may offer protection against death from stroke. There are thousands of variations.
FOOD INTAKES are generally analyzed over a one-week period, and NUTRIENT INTAKES over one day, and within this framework variations are possible. Take the examples of fruit (a food), and fat (a nutrient). We all need at least three servings of fruit and/or fruit juice daily, but in the context of a week's diet there is no harm in missing a serve one day and making it up the next. And if you eat one too-fatty item, you can 'balance the books' by reducing fat for the rest of the day. In this context, even chocolate (the mythical arch villain!) may have a place. Dark chocolate is very fattening, but it contains small quantities of protective nutrients and (unlike milk chocolate) does not raise cholesterol. Thus an occasional moderate indulgence is reasonable, provided your overall daily fat quota is not exceeded. Never say 'never' - don't make your life a dietary misery - but remember you must tailor your diet to your specific health needs. Thus if you are overweight, regard chocolate as a rare treat. Likewise, if you are low in iron, extra red meat may be necessary, or even supplementation, though both would normally be discouraged. In any healthy diet, grains, fruit and vegetables must play a major role...